The bottom line for local hire advocates. Photos courtesy of Jill Mangaliman.
Developing a local hire ordinance in Seattle is now in order after a unanimous city council vote on Sept. 23 to approve the “Construction Careers Targeted Local Hire” resolution. The resolution establishes a stakeholder process to shape local hire policy — something its proponents believe Seattle is ripe for and can stretch beyond city limits.
“[Seattle has a] long history of community-driven pressure to hold public agencies and the construction industry — employers, unions and apprenticeship programs — accountable for equitable access, fair hiring and equal opportunity,” said Michael Woo, veteran labor organizer and director of Got Green, the convening nonprofit advocacy group of the Local Hire Coalition comprised of more than 30 businesses, labor, environmental and Southeast Seattle community groups. “These have been project-by-project [workforce agreement] efforts. Got Green’s organizing aims to establish a regional model for public agency contracting, starting with this City of Seattle policy.”
Earlier this year, local hire advocates reported Rainer Valley to have twice the rate of unemployment as the city average. Local hire ordinances have been implemented as a solution to employment inequity in San Francisco, Calif., Cleveland, Ohio, Baltimore, Md., Hartford, Conn. and Portland, Ore. San Francisco’s ordinance reached 34 percent local hiring on city-funded construction projects in its first year. By 2017, it’s expected to employ at least 50 percent of city projects with local residents. The ordinance requires that no less than 25 percent of those hired meet their definition of “disadvantaged,” which includes those who are unemployed, low-income, single custodial parents and vocational English language learners.
Under the resolution Seattle City Council voted in, local hire coalition partners have selected three community representatives to guide the stakeholder process. Their names will be released by the city in October. The objectives of the advisory process, said Woo, are that “stakeholders must agree on the mechanisms to ensure men and women from economically disadvantaged communities in Seattle and King County are not only recruited … but trained and hired with cooperation from contractors, apprenticeship programs and unions.”
Prior to the landmark city council vote, the coalition worked for more than six months to earn council agreement and broad community support. Woo attributed much of the success to frequent public actions, testimony at city hall and early backing from Seattle City Councilmembers Sally Clark, Mike O’Brien and Nick Licata. Woo also explained that the broad appeal to city budget writers of leveraging existing investments for jobs while protecting the environment was a win-win. (Local hire means less commuting and a reduction in carbon emissions).
On Sept. 12, councilmembers on the city’s economic and resilience committee voted for the local hire coalition’s resolu- 2014, new investments would increase construction jobs in Seattle ($715,000) and create a targeted hire program to recruit those who have historically faced barriers securing construction jobs (nearly $465,000). A $250,000 line in the budget also ensures that YouthBuild, a nonprofit construction apprenticeship program, will continue training young people who are homeless or at risk of violence.
As budget negotiations and a stakeholder process ensue, local hire advocates in Seattle will work to persuade more business owners to join coalition efforts.
“Their interest: when their customers are employed and earning living wages, they are likely to shop, eat, etc. in their local business,” said Woo.
Between October and March, stakeholders involved will meet, develop and submit their recommendations to the city. All meetings are public to increase accountability. High turnout will be invaluable to this objective, said Woo: “There must be transparency of outcomes with strong enforcement and consequences for non-compliance.”
Legislation for local hire could be introduced in April 2014 with a city council vote to follow.